BGT 2014: Post-mortem

The voting figures show show that Collabro claimed the crown with 26.5%, ahead of Lucy Kay on 17% and Bars and Melody on 14.3%. Top of the non-singing acts was Darcy Oake in fifth with 8.5%. What can we conclude from the final? Here are five thoughts.

1. Is backstory overrated on BGT…

On the face of it, it’s odd that Collabro succeeded where similarly commercial-looking popera acts Richard and Adam fell short in 2013 and Jonathan and Charlotte in 2012. Those two acts both had great backstories – how her friendship had helped his self-confidence, and how the brothers sang while making sandwiches and love their granny. Collabro’s backstory? They’re five blokes who, um, don’t like having to do boring jobs.

Groups need some kind of genesis story and narrative to get through the marathon of X Factor. But is backstory overrated in the relative sprint that is BGT?

2. Or was this just a weak year?

The most obvious explanation for Collabro succeeding where J&C and R&A failed is that this year’s competition was weaker.

Producers seemed alert to this, judging by the number of times the judges tried to persuade us thre was strength in depth in the final. There were several comments to the effect that “I keep thinking I’ve seen the winner then an ever better act comes along” – and then Cowell’s “in any other year that would be a winning performance” to Lucy Kay, which seemed an oddly deflating thing to say after a wow moment from the pimp slot.

3. Semi results tracked the final

BGT release the percentages but not, of course, the vote totals. We’d be intrigued to know how much the raw vote totals vary across the semis. There’s suggestive evidence that the raw votes in the semis might have allowed producers to be reasonably confident what result they’d get in the final, because in four of the five semis the ratio of the winner’s vote to the other qualifier’s pretty closely tracked the situation in the final.

In both semi and final, Collabro got about four times Darcy Oake’s vote and six times Jon Clegg’s. James Smith got about four times The Addict Initiative’s vote in the semi, and three times in the final, a pattern repeated by Jack Pack and Paddy and Nico. Bars and Melody got about three times Lettice’s vote on both occasions. The only significant difference was Lucy Kay’s margin over Yanis, Arnaud & Mehdi – two-fold in the semi, seventeen-fold in the final. That’s no surprise given that she closed the show with such a big song.

If the raw votes across the semis do predict the final vote fairly closely, Lucy might have attracted significantly fewer votes on the Wednesday than Collabro did on the Monday, and that might have made producers confident about the winner they’d get. Which would explain Cowell’s otherwise odd comment to Lucy about her performance being good enough to win in any other year – it was a set-up to make Collabro’s win look more impressive.

4. Bars and Melody under the bus

It’s always interesting to have a case study in nobbling to pick over, and Bars And Melody were the unfortunates on the receiving end. Clearly, producers didn’t want them to win and were nervous enough to employ some classic tactics against them – notably being the first of the six singing acts in the running order, the “end of journey” vibe of their VT, which showed how they had already got their message across through 29 million YouTube hits and American chat shows.

There were a couple of interesting variants on familiar themes. Note how B&M were memory-holed by the vocally superior James Smith, also a teenager. And then James’s retro performance was memory-holed by Jack Pack’s retro performance. The cumulative effect, cleverly, was to suggest that Jack Pack > James > B&M.

Judges’ comments continued the end-of-journey vibe, with plenty of “you’ve made your parents proud” and a conspicuous absence of “you deserve to win, I want people to pick up the phone”. Cowell’s coup de grace was a masterpiece of the non-vote-motivating-praise genre: “I hope my son grows up to be like you”. Nice to see young Eric being pressed into service.

5. Do oldies just not motivate the votes?

Perhaps the only surprise in the voting figures was quite how few votes Paddy and Nico generated. After Janey Cutler in 2010, can we conclude that the older generation can generate hype and column inches but not phone votes?

There was also plenty for staging aficionados to get their teeth into in the final: was Lettice giving off sparks, or being electrocuted? Bars and Melody got helpful gold ticker tape, but were made to look small by backing dancers on plinths. James Smith was visually associated with dim light bulbs. Lucy was clad angelically in white with her instrumentalists in black, and started standing on a cloud with a star of light above her head.

There were some right hatchet jobs in the semi-finals too. Running order usually told us producers’ intentions, but there were further ways of sticking the boot in. The most unfortunate example was probably Kings & Queens – shoved under a (London) bus with a sexually-provocative, messy, red-and-blacked routine. What else did you spot from the heats?

As ever, let us know your reflections below.

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14 comments to BGT 2014: Post-mortem

  • Tim B

    Producers saw the need to throw Yanis Marshall, Arnaud and Mehdi under the bus in the final too, seeing as they attracted nearly half the votes Lucy did in Wednesday’s semi-final, which struck me as being higher than you’d expect for that type of act. In the VT, viewers were reminded that they didn’t seem particularly grateful to have been voted through their semi. The final performance itself was less impressive, there was no treadmill gimmick and the song choices were much less fun. They were also red and blacked which turned into colour vomit by the end, with lasers cutting though them and, of course, Simon showed his disapproval by buzzing.

    I definitely think they were trying to electrocute Lettice, I said that to my friend during her performance. They also felt the need to put her on third as in theory she was a threat to producers’ Plan B act, Lucy Kay.

  • AlisonR

    I think one thing I noted in the semis was that B&M didn’t have the pimp slot, Lettice did. My feeling was that that was to make sure she made the final, now I wonder if it was also part of an early B&M deramp. I did think that B&M would be deramped in the final and that Collabro would win it. Early polls I saw at the beginning of this week had B&M and Collabro neck and neck on about 25% and Lucy only on about 9% (similar to P&N), so I was not scared by her despite her having the pimp when the finalists were announced and I feel her pimp for the final itself was purely to get her in the top three, they knew she was not going to win.

  • stoney

    For me the biggest hatchet job of the semi finals was done on Keiron Lai, who in my opinion is the best solo dancer that has been on the show. If George Sampson could win the show with the same routine 3 times, then Keiron should have at least made the final with the incredible tinman routine. But it would seem that producer interference took place and he was ripped apart and ended up polling a dismal 2%

    • Daniel

      That’s a great example, stoney. His semi routine was utterly alienating and he was swallowed up by the wall behind him with its images of him dancing.

      • stoney

        Fair play to him for sticking to the script and saying he wanted to take a risk, we live in hope that one day someone will blurt out the truth, i know weve had a few close shaves in the past.

  • I noticed how bad the camerawork was for Bars & Melody. So many long shots.

  • Dan

    A few things I noted:

    On a number of occasions, Cowell mentioned the plinth thing, specifically that he didn’t like them because it stopped the performer from moving around. Watch out for these in X-Factor.

    If the golden buzzer is used again, then Cowell’s choice is a dead-cert for the final with a decent placing. He’s hardly going to back a dud act.

    Yanis Marshall, Arnaud & Mehdi got the highest percentage of the votes for a second place in the semis at 21.5% but their vote in the final fell off a cliff. You mention Bars and Melody getting thrown under a bus, but these guys were given a poor routine and buzzed by Cowell – the first time ever in a final. If that wasn’t a blatant de-ramp then I don’t know what is.

    Bars and Melody – they’ve got one hit in them and a tour of America’s shopping malls ahead. Cowell also needs to act fast with them before cute rapping teens turn into angry young adults. This was never an act for the Royal Variety Performance, that needs safe, Queen-friendly acts.

  • Nissl

    Living over in the US, I’ll admit didn’t watch more than a handful of Youtube performances of the favored singing acts and groups, but it’s interesting to read how the series went.

    I assume BAM went under the bus because kids can be unpredictable to manage. I’d also agree with Dan that they’ve got one hit single in them and then I don’t know where they go once their manufactured story is over. There’s a huge gap between their age and the period where they would become marketable as young adults. (Look at USXF signing Astro. Who? Exactly.) I might try them on the star factory that is the US Disney Channel if they were willing to move to LA. I think relatively talented (for their age), charismatic, clean-cut rappers would sell well to the 6-11 set in that context. If that were to happen, of course, winning BGT would be irrelevant.

    It’s interesting to note the handling of the girl groups. Sweetchix were stuck on a slowly descending platform for half the song (good luck focusing on your vocals girls!) then got no stage support, with pink-heavy color vomit in the background. I still think they are worth keeping in mind for a few years down the road on XF depending on how they develop and how Little Mix fare in the future.

    Meanwhile Reaformed got tons of gold and stage support. They were out to make Alesha look decent, and perhaps it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if they caught fire. Still they cut the backing track on a few key harmony bits, and had Simon recommend less stage support (ha!)

    I think the producers wouldn’t have minded a podium spot for Jack Pack as a backup option. Still, the vocally stronger and younger Collabro took precedence in the running order.

    James Smith has a big set of pipes and quite a bit of talent for his age but leaves me a little cold and doesn’t quite read as standard teen popstar material. If he makes it, it will/should be the Ed Sheeran route.

    With so little time to get to know the contestants, it really seems like running order is everything in this format. Which in some ways makes it less interesting to analyze than the manipulation marathon of XF.

    Any plans for the summer, anyone? I’m really interested to see how the Rising Star format plays out here in the US.

    • Danny

      Once Jack Pack appeared on the show earlier then Collabro and their VT showed JP nervously watching Collabro rehearse, the writing was on the wall as to which male singing group was going to have the best chance.

      A stab in the back for JP and a boost for Collabro in one hit, the only thing it lacked was subtlety.

  • Tim B

    Just remembered something else re: Lettice. During her post-performance interview, Ant or Dec pressed her to reveal how much her violin was worth (there were reports in the papers that it was worth £1.5m). Presumably this was to plant the idea in viewers’ minds that she is privileged, which I would consider a type of vote-dampening technique. Fortunately for Lettice, she knew that the best thing to do was state that it was “invaluable”.

  • Charlie

    One other thing if I remember correctly was that Ant ‘n’ Dec didn’t let Paddy & Nico speak after the judges’ comments. No opportunity to endear herself more to the public.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Is there going to be a Big Brother thread for the new series?

    • Andy

      I am gobsmacked by Tamera’s price for eviction on Friday.
      The current polls all have Tamera top of the pile.
      Who do you want to evict poll.

      Thisisbigbrother poll

      Tamera 68.2%
      Danielle 26.1%
      Jale 5.8%

      Tellymix poll

      Tamera 64%
      Danielle 28%
      Jale 8%

      Digital Spy poll

      Tamera 46.9
      Danielle 41.5
      Jale 11.5

      She is clearly unpopular yet odds against for eviction, 11/10 is a price I am happy to nibble at.
      What you reckon Jessica?

    • Daniel

      Hi Jessica – good point, and a new discussion thread has been posted. Looking forward to hearing your views on the new series.

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